History shows Northern Hills/Valencia has an Alamo connection

National Historic Trail now a main thoroughfare

SAN ANTONIO – Part of the land where the Northern Hills and Valencia neighborhoods are now, and where businesses bustle along Nacogdoches Road, has a connection to the Alamo and the first people of Texas.

“The people that were living here in the 1740s … would have been mission Indians,” said Ramon Vasquez, executive director of the American Indians of Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions.

Vasquez said many remained there as vaqueros at Rancho Monte Galvan, where livestock for the Alamo and other missions grazed. The adjacent Rancho Monte Comal was where presidio soldiers at Main Plaza had their livestock, and where they lived along with mestizos of Spanish and indigenous descent. However, he said the exact locations are still unknown.

The Northern Hills and Valencia neighborhoods have a connection to the Alamo and the first people of Texas. (Witte Museum)

Yet he said the tribes with the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation lived in the area for thousands of years, trading goods and raising their families.

“A few names of the bands and clan would have been, Payaya, Papanac, Tilijae, Pampoa and some Tonkakwa,” Vasquez said.

After the Spaniards came, Vasquez said tribal members who didn’t want to move to the missions stayed at the Rancheria Grande.

“Those were remnants of different tribes,” Vasquez said.

Listening to Vasquez as they studied old land grant maps of the area was Everett Fly, a landscape architect nationally recognized for his preservation work.

Fly has discovered and helped restore three lost African American cemeteries on the Northeast Side, one in Northern Hills.

The Hockley Clay Cemetery in Northern Hills/Valencia. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Those buried there include some people who were enslaved in the area and their descendants, he said.

“Every time I get to talk to Ramon, I learn something,” Fly said. “It shows us how many layers there are to our history.”

Fly and Vasquez talked about the heavily populated German community there, who were likely among the Anglos, along with Tejanos, who received land grants from what was then the Republic of Texas.

However, Fly said very few land grants were given to African Americans.

“You could almost count them on your hands,” Fly said.

There’s also history running through Northern Hills and Valencia. Nacogdoches Road is El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, which runs from Mexico City to what is now Nacogdoches and eastward to Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Nacogdoches Road is part of El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. (Copyright 2024 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Yet El Camino Real began as a web of migratory trails “that existed for thousands of years,” Vasquez said.

“My grandmother was telling the truth the whole time,” said Kathleen Sanchez, who has lived in Valencia since 1985, raising four successful sons there. “That’s how she ended up living in San Antonio.”

Sanchez said her grandmother, who lived to 106, would describe traveling by wagon and on foot, often as migrant workers clearing trees for farmland.

Having lived just off that same road her grandmother traveled, Sanchez said, “I’m proud to know this is how it worked out for us.”

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About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.

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